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The Smell of Winter

I grew up in upstate New York and learned to recognize the smell of winter. I'd notice it on cold mornings in late August and early September: a crisp bite to the air, the scent of silence, stillness, cold.

You never forget it. No matter where you are, when the weather starts to turn, you can pick up hints of impending frost, the tendrils of chill reaching back from the near future.

When I moved to Miami, I didn't smell winter any more. Seasons came and went, but the scent wasn't there. It couldn't cut through the sun and the moisture to tease those memories of arm-length icicles and snowbanks as high as my tasseled hat.

Until recently.

Lately I can smell it, faintly, at the oddest times. It cuts through the noise of machines, the heat waves off pavement, the stench of garbage. I can smell winter again, but this time it's not the comforting, silent cold of a sleeping earth. It's sinister, hateful.

They say the blasts wiped out D.C., New York, Atlanta. They say Moscow is leveled. They say Paris is a smoking ruin, London a blackened crater.

I can smell winter coming early this year.

The preceding text is a contribution to Warren Ellis' 24-hour fast-art exhibit, Strange Machine. Click the logo to see the entire archive.Strange Machine

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( 34 comments — Leave a comment )
bohemelibrarian
Oct. 15th, 2004 06:02 am (UTC)
I find it so interesting we can "smell" the change of seasons...something that has remained in us since our more primitive days of being cave men or something!
rfreebern
Oct. 15th, 2004 10:45 am (UTC)
I know! I've always loved it when I first start to notice it each year, too. Autumn is by far my favourite season. It's so gorgeous and emotional.
violetstarfly
Oct. 15th, 2004 06:10 am (UTC)
Very cool writings, they made me want to run outside and take a huge gulp of freah air. I *love* being able to smell the seasons... I think winter and fall are my favorites. Something about fall, and that dusty sweet leaf smell... and then winter.. well you did a good job with that one so I'll leave it there!
rfreebern
Oct. 15th, 2004 10:46 am (UTC)
Today is too grey. It smells like grey outside. Everything's better on sunny days! :)
celticgirl106
Oct. 15th, 2004 07:18 am (UTC)
That was great. I love reading your writings!
rfreebern
Oct. 15th, 2004 10:46 am (UTC)
Thank you! I have two more in the pipeline. They'll be posted this weekend.
quiet000001
Oct. 15th, 2004 08:34 am (UTC)
I really liked this one.
rfreebern
Oct. 15th, 2004 10:46 am (UTC)
Thank you.
mavra_chang
Oct. 15th, 2004 08:45 am (UTC)
I really liked this one. (:
rfreebern
Oct. 15th, 2004 10:49 am (UTC)
Hah! I just read yours, and it's great. That first sentence is a kicker. Bravo!
(no subject) - mavra_chang - Oct. 16th, 2004 05:50 pm (UTC) - Expand
jrw
Oct. 15th, 2004 09:57 am (UTC)
Nice.
rfreebern
Oct. 15th, 2004 10:49 am (UTC)
Thanks.
kathryn0442
Oct. 15th, 2004 10:35 am (UTC)
=) I liked reading this. I don't like the smell of this time of year. Even though for a second it makes me happy because I am reminded that halloween and hayrides and thanksgiving are coming soon, it's the smell of rotting leaves and dying summer. I don't like the death of summer. It's the death of everything that keeps me okay for a while.

this was good stuff though =) i've never experienced fall in miami or anywhere much else than here.
rfreebern
Oct. 15th, 2004 10:50 am (UTC)
Summer doesn't die. It just sleeps.

I've never experienced fall in Miami either. It's a fictional piece. :)
(no subject) - kathryn0442 - Oct. 15th, 2004 11:12 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - rfreebern - Oct. 15th, 2004 04:27 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - kathryn0442 - Oct. 15th, 2004 08:34 pm (UTC) - Expand
(Deleted comment)
rfreebern
Oct. 15th, 2004 03:31 pm (UTC)
I'm glad you liked it!
(no subject) - rfreebern - Oct. 15th, 2004 04:22 pm (UTC) - Expand
jeaniek
Oct. 15th, 2004 11:20 pm (UTC)
hey you, I love you and your writing rocks my world.

way totally a lot.

forever and ever amen.
rfreebern
Oct. 16th, 2004 08:11 am (UTC)
Aw, thanks. :)
pididdle
Oct. 16th, 2004 12:53 am (UTC)
That is great. I really like what you write. It's nice to have a little something fictional yet good to read amidst the entries of my friends page.

I may start writing little things like that, it seems like a good way to use a little bit of creativity and relate it to other stuff.
rfreebern
Oct. 16th, 2004 08:12 am (UTC)
Thank you.

I hope you do write! A little creativity is good for everyone. I look forward to reading what you come up with. :)
tempest_mrc
Oct. 16th, 2004 01:06 pm (UTC)
Nice twist at the end there.

My sense memory had me feeling all warm and fuzzy, thinking about the smell of winter (which, in Vancouver, is really just the smell of mushy rain)... and then you went and threw a nuclear winter at me. Well done.

--MRC
rfreebern
Oct. 16th, 2004 03:13 pm (UTC)
Thank you! That's what I was aiming for. :)
apothsis
Oct. 16th, 2004 04:41 pm (UTC)
I've always hated the smell of oncoming winter.

The loss of the sun and promise of life.

You captured the fears I had as a teenager perfectly.
rfreebern
Oct. 17th, 2004 04:49 pm (UTC)
Thank you!
theunshaven
Oct. 19th, 2004 04:47 am (UTC)
Heh
Niiiiiiicely done.

I liked the last line. Invested with such subtle menace. We approve.
decemberismine
Oct. 24th, 2004 05:02 am (UTC)
very good.
i know exactly what you mean about smelling the onset of winter.
but i am quite thankful to not have experienced the rest, most of the time...
mind if i add you to my friends list??
rfreebern
Oct. 26th, 2004 06:45 am (UTC)
Thank you! Feel free to befriend me if you'd like.
(no subject) - decemberismine - Oct. 27th, 2004 06:20 am (UTC) - Expand
ggerrietts
Nov. 1st, 2004 06:18 pm (UTC)
It's funny because the senses really do get confused. I'm aware it's autumn now, at the end of October, because it feels like time to go to school, because I live out away from the Bay now and it's got more seasonality out there. I see the leaves turning colors, and I think: that's early, but it's not. Friends in Canada are shovelling snow, friends out east complain of the cold.

Winter never seems to arrive, out here. And while sometimes I wish for it, its crisp and brutal cleansing, I think I am much less apt to do so, now.

I wonder, without wanting to know, if winter would really smell the same, if it were fallout-induced.
( 34 comments — Leave a comment )

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